Tanja Kirst: “Material research, plant fibers for textile use and how to incorporate sustainability throughout the entire design process.”

April 30th, 2020
Written by:
The Mindcraft Project

Tanja Kirst working in her studio. Photo courtesy of Tanja Kirst.

In a Q&A series, the designers and artists participating in this year’s Digital Exhibition by The Mindcraft Project tell us about their daily process, what they are working on, how they use their favorite tool and generally what they are into right now. A warm welcome to textile designer Tanja Kirst.

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What I do in my studio
I draw a lot of different patterns and compositions, which can be developed into constructions for weaving. I work both analog and digitally. Quite often, I start with hand drawing and afterwards I re-draw in Illustrator and Photoshop, to prepare the file for weaving.

I also do a lot of reading, material research and planning in the studio. I really enjoy the first phase of a new project. I tend to work very systematically. It’s necessary when planning a new textile production. However, in the beginning of a new project I experiment a lot and allow myself to work intuitively and then slowly I begin to set the frames for a new project.

Drawing patterns and compositions. Photo courtesy of Tanja Kirst.

Essential working tool
Grid paper. I draw a lot of patterns on different graph papers. It’s a good way for me to sketch and to draw weaving constructions.

What I work on at the moment
At the moment I’m working full time at Kvadrat as showroom manager and sales coordinator. It’s been important for me to gain some experience after my graduation from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design. Besides that, I work as a freelance designer. I have just designed a rug collection for Massimo Copenhagen, which is supposed to be launched on the other side of Covid-19.

Photo courtesy of Tanja Kirst.

Best design experience I had recently
My residency at “Thread” in Sinthian, Africa sponsored by the Josef and Anni Albers foundation. There was no Internet, reception or interruptions, which allowed me to reflect and create in a more present way. Spending a month there on my own, with all my drawing tools, music and access to a library with a big collection of works by Josef and Anni Albers was a great experience.

Favorite material
I like to observe, touch and interact with things and materials that have a friction. E.g. a transparent textile quality with a fine surface where the construction is almost invisible or a large three-dimensional interweave.

Photo courtesy of Tanja Kirst.

3 things I’m into right now
I think a lot about how I as a textile designer can improve or a least make a little difference towards a more sustainable textile industry. I’m very interested in material research, plant fibers for textile use and how to incorporate sustainability throughout the entire design process.

What I listen to when I work
I listen to a lot of different music. It all depends on my mood and what I’m working on. The list is long with a big variation. Recently, I’ve been listening to:

Arthur Russel, Hi Tek, Cat Power, Yann Tiersen, Kate Bush and Sandro Perri just to mention a few…

When possible, what will you next travel destination be
Well, all my travel plans are on standby at the moment due to the current Covid-19 situation. When the world opens up again my plan is to go to Japan to do research on Japanese paper yarns for a new project. I’m very inspired and drawn towards Japanese history, culture and craftsmanship.

Biggest inspiration
That’s a difficult one. I feel inspired by many things and in many ways. When I walk long distances, I always get to a stage of mind, where the ideas and the inspiration keep coming in an unconscious flow.

One of my favorite books is “3x abstraction: new methods of drawings, Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, Agnes Martin.” Also, I find a lot inspiration by the work of Sergej Jensen, Anni Albers and Varvara Stepanova who is a Russian artist associated with the Constructivist movement.